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Winemaker Steve Brooks
Trusts his Foodie Instincts

by Alison Ruch

 

It's spring of 2009, and five years after Steve Brooks left his fast-paced life as a journalist, he's working harder than ever. "The difference is, there it felt like work, here it doesn't."

Trust Cellars' fourth vintage is just out. A 2007 Walla Walla Syrah $29.95 is new as is the 2007 Syrah Columbia Valley $29.95. An 08 Riesling and 08 Rose fill out the group. The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon is still available, with a new release to come in the fall of 2009.

Steve and Lori Brooks, in their former lives as a journalists for CNN in Atlanta, got to know a thing or two about wine because they traveled and he drank it--all over the world. "I ate out a lot!" he said. "The highlight of any exhausting, miserably long work day was the quest for the best local food. Many a meal--with lots of local wine, if available--was shared with colleagues as we swapped stories of our past adventures."

"I've always associated those good times with food and drink. In short, I became a foodie."

Brooks realized, nearly twenty years into his life as a journalist, that he wasn't very happy. He was always on the road. Brooks and his family brainstormed for alternative lifestyles -- happy places. Some of the most appealing ventures involved food and wine.

After reading an inspiring New York Times article on winemaking in Eastern Washington, the Brooks family decided happiness was worth the risk of leaving life as they knew it in Atlanta behind to give the winemaking business a try. The family up and moved to remote wine hub of Walla Walla, Washington.

Five years later, when Brooks and his wife Lori (who still works for CNN) put their heads together to come up with a name for their new winery, the word came quickly. "When we sat down and thought about what we had done--" Brooks said, "--quitting our well-paying jobs, selling our house, taking the kids out of school and moving cross-country to a town where we didn't know anyone... and then on top of that starting a winery... Trust seemed like the perfect description."

From Drinking It to Making It

Brooks arrived in Walla Walla with a lot to learn. He knew grape varietals and was skilled with food and wine pairings, but he had to learn the intricacies of winemaking and get some hands-on experience. He set to work right away, taking classes at the Center for Enology and Viticulture in Walla Walla. Over the past five years, he's built up a strong wine work resume with time spent in the cellars of Walla Walla Vintners, Northstar, Long Shadows, Basel Cellars, Va Piano and Chateau Rollat.

Unlike the days at CNN, often parting ways to travel solo for assignments, Steve and Lori are happy they have designed a life in which they see a lot of each other--running their family business. To sweeten the deal, they've involved their two daughters, Madeline and Caroline. "They all pitch in and help," Brooks said.

The first Trust Cellars vintage was 2005, for which Brooks produced a Syrah. Out of 2006, came a Riesling, Cabernet Franc Rose and a Semillon Ice Wine.

Trust recently relocated to a new facility, located at (no kidding) 1050 Merlot Drive, in the middle of Saint Clare Vineyard. Brooks is currently making around 900 cases a years and, he said, "We have plans to inch up production every year--but nothing drastic."

Happy Landings

After the freefall that was starting over in Walla Walla to learn to make wine led to its happy landing at Trust Cellars, Steve and Lori Brooks are content to stay put and keep doing what they're doing.

"[We have] no plans to take over the world and turn Trust into a global conglomerate," Brooks said. "We want to always be a small family business and continue making wines that people enjoy."


Trust Cellars Vineyard

 

The Trust Cellars Wines

Brooks uses fruit from a long list of Washington vineyards, and he said he finds that, "Each one brings something to the table when it's time to put a blend together. I tend to favor hotter sites for Cabernet and cooler sites for Syrah, but I always keep an open mind and try to taste as many different spots as I can."

In general, Brooks likes to keep his style streamlined. "The wine is an expression of the vineyard," Brooks said. "I try not to cover that up, so nothing heavy handed. I just let nature play out."

 



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